Business Monday: Climb to new heights at Kona Cliffs
September 11, 2023, 1:00 AM HST
When Nym Raske started looking into opening a business in West Hawai‘i two years ago, he asked everyone he came in contact with one question: “What do you think Kona needs?”
“Four out of five times I asked the question the answer I got was a climbing gym,” Raske said.
A climber himself, it gave Raske a chance to create a space to get back on the “rock.” Hawai‘i Island has limited boulders established for outdoor climbing and only one bouldering gym, where people can climb inside with padded floors for falls. Big Island Climbing opened a few years ago in Hilo.
It took Raske two years after coming up with the idea to open Kona Cliffs, also a bouldering gym. The grand opening was Aug. 1.
The 16-foot high and approximately 110-linear-foot wall, with a price tag of $250,000, came from Bulgaria, the leading wall building the the world. The journey to Hawaiʻi took four months.
Located in the Kona Brewery Block on Pawai Place, Raske said the reception has been amazing.
“The number of people elated to be here and to meet other climbers has been huge,” he said.
So far, the gym has sold 100 monthly memberships.
A free 30-minute orientation, training and safety class are offered to all first-time visitors.
Climber Blake Sims was at the gym on Friday with his 13-month-old daughter Coco. Sitting on the cushy thick-gray mat beneath the climbing wall, Sims talked story with fellow climbers before attempting a route with a difficult overhang.
A climber for 14 years, Sims took a break from the sport when he moved in 2015 back to Kona, where there was no place to climb. He filled his leisure time instead with water activities. But his renewed interest in climbing was sparked with the opening of Kona Cliffs.
Sims loves the challenge of rock climbing and the opportunity it provides “to be better when you don’t think you can. It builds confidence.”
Climbing gyms were attempted in Kona in the past but they weren’t built to last, Raske said. Kona Cliffs has about 85 bouldering routes that vary in difficulty, with members able to learn different climbing techniques.
Raske said there is an option to double the space — from 2,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet — and expand into rope climbing if there is traffic and demand.
The color-coded routes created with composite plastic hand and footholds come in all shapes and sizes. Raske said routes are easily re-set every five weeks. Holds can be unbolted from the wall and drilled back into another spot to create a new route or boulder problem.
Climbing isn’t just a physical sport.
“Climbing has the ability to focus and challenge the mind and body unlike anything I’ve ever done,” Raske said.
Climbing can be a solo sport or as communal as a climber wants it to be. The sport is a community of people who support each other and celebrate victories over successfully completing a route.
“I hope it inspires people to climb outside and people to meet to climb together,” Raske said.
He also hopes it will inspire people to try the sport.
“Climbing is a metaphor for life,” Sims said. “Go fail, so you can fail better, so you can succeed and make it to the top.”
First-time kama‘aina visitors pay the one-time day pass rate of $13. Day prices after that are $25 for kama‘aina, $20 for keiki under the age of 14 and $30 for Big Island visitors. Shoe rentals are available.
Kona Cliffs is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Click here for more information or about memberships.